Your health and fitness plan for the holidays

Image: Getty Images
Image: Getty Images

Plan ahead

Research your holiday destination. Besides the beautiful views and local cuisine, check out what outdoor activities you can participate in. Find out if the neighbourhood you’ll be staying in has active running groups or jogger-friendly paths. And before you get there, keep a workout calendar with reminders on your phone. That will ensure you don’t get caught up in all the excitement and forget about your health.

Fitness coach Zinhle Masango says if you’re a fitness fanatic, find accommodation that has a gym. “Pack at least two gym outfits. That way, the clothes are there, so you’ll have no excuses for not exercising. Also, pack a skipping rope, ankle weights and an ab wheel to use in the comfort of your hotel room.”

Masango suggests carrying a water bottle. “Ensure it’s always filled up. And if you’re using supplements, pack those as well.”

Fitness coach Nkateko “Takkies” Maswanganye agrees. Takkies advises you to pack healthy snacks as doing so will help you avoid going for sweets or chips. “Eat these snacks between regular, big healthy meals to keep your metabolism going. Also, before you leave for your holiday, maintain a healthy eating plan so that when you’re on vacation, you’re already used to making healthy eating choices.”


Masango says: “Outdoor cardio and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are great ways to stay in shape while travelling. You could jog on the beach or around the hotel you’re staying at. You can also perform body weight HIIT in the comfort of your hotel room.

“Ditch the rides that are offered for free at the hotel and walk instead. Most B&Bs also have swimming pools, so put on your swimsuit and do a few laps. There are lots of holiday-friendly exercises: while admiring that beautiful view from the balcony, or when you’re on top of a mountain or even by the beach, you can do push-ups, squats, lunges, crunches, planks and calf raises. Use what you have and make the most of your environment. Often, you don’t need fancy equipment to stay fit.”

Watch what you eat

Dietician Gabi Lasker recommends that you eat only the foods you enjoy the most. “The more variety of food is on offer, the more you want to taste it. Try to stick to a few items that you enjoy the most. If they’re foods that are higher in energy, eat smaller portions and fill up the rest of the plate with lower energy foods like salads and vegetables.”

Lasker says another way to limit munching on everything is to stay hydrated. “Drink water with meals to slow down your eating pace. Sometimes, we think we are hungry when, in fact, we are just thirsty.” However, she cautions against letting yourself eat all day. “Give yourself three hours between meals to make sure you can still feel hunger cues. And if you’re snacking in between meals, go for fruit, a handful of nuts, biltong or popcorn instead of crisps, sweets, chocolates and biscuits.”

Another practical tip from Lasker is that when you book a restaurant, look at the menu before arriving. “This way, you’ll know if there is something healthy on offer or not.”

Portions are generally much bigger than what you’d normally have at home, so remember that you don’t have to finish everything on your plate. “Rather share the food with your travel mates or take it back to your hotel as a takeaway,” adds Lasker.

But don’t forget to have fun tasting ethnic dishes, says dietician and fitness trainer Gaby Burbaitzky: “Good experiences often include food, so enjoy them and savour each moment so you feel satisfied. Just remember to make healthier eating choices for the next few days and to keep moving.”

Limit your alcohol intake

Burbaitzky advises drinking alcohol in moderation as it’s high in calories. “To put this in perspective, every gram of alcohol contains seven calories, whereas every gram of carbohydrates contains only four calories. The biggest problem with alcohol is the mixers. We drink vodka with cranberry juice, rum with Coke and other sweet juices used in cocktails! So it’s best to drink alcohol that’s as pure as possible, or to mix it with sugarfree mixers.”

If you enjoy beer, go for the “lite” options as they contain fewer calories. Champagne is also a lower-calorie option. But at the end of the day, too much will add excess calories and will most likely cause weight gain.

Have fun

Actress Sihle Ndaba shares her health philosophy: “It’s cheaper to pay for gym than medical bills – that’s what motivates me to stay in shape while travelling.” She admits to lazing at the beach and nibbling on cheesy pizza every now and again. “But I make sure that I work it off by exercising in the hotel room and drinking lots of water.”

On the other hand, Lasker says you shouldn’t be stressing about your weight while you’re trying to relax. “You’re on holiday, so enjoy it. Just remember to keep a good balance, and that moderation each day is key. Move a little each day, eat to satiety instead of fullness, and stay hydrated.”

Burbaitzky agrees. “Enjoy your holiday and have ice cream on the beach if you feel like it – just not every day! If you indulge, be mindful about it. Savour the meal and be conscious while eating in order to make sure you are fully satisfied, even if you choose to have a small portion. Try to enjoy eating.”

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